Coronavirus UK latest – Christmas bubble in doubt as ultra-infectious mutant Covid strain rips through country

MINISTERS are meeting today in a bid to avert a strict national lockdown after it emerged hospitals are 90 per cent full as a rapidly spreading new strain of Covid rips through the country.

Boris Johnson was reported to have held an unscheduled meeting of ministers late last night to discuss new evidence of the mutated virus.

It came amid “growing concern” about the threat posed by the mutant strain – which is spreading fastest in South East England and London.

This week Northern Ireland announced six-weeks of full lockdown, while Wales announced a further freeze and Scotland is teetering on the edge.

Asked if England would follow suit, effectively putting the entire UK back in a full lockdown, schools minister Nick Gibb said "Nothing is ruled out of course as we tackle this pandemic".

Earlier the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: “We’ve been clear of the rationale behind the tiered regional approach and that’s what we’ve set out for the time. As we’ve said throughout we will obviously keep the latest data and the latest trends under review.”

Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news, reaction and updates on the lockdown plans…

  • Patrick Knox

    VIRUS-STRICKEN MACRON 'SLOWED DOWN' BY COVID

    French President Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged he had been "slowed down" by his Covid-19 infection but insisted he was doing well, as the country's coronavirus death toll topped 60,000.

    Macron is working in self-isolation from an official residence outside Paris after he tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday in a result that caused alarm across Europe.

    "I am doing well. I have the same symptoms as yesterday: tiredness, headaches, dry cough. Like hundreds of thousands of others of you," Macron said in a video message posted on his Twitter account that he appeared to have recorded himself with a phone.

    "My activity is a little slowed down due to the virus. But I am continuing to take care of the priority issues like the epidemic or, for example, Brexit," he said.

  • Patrick Knox

    WORLDWIDE CASES CROSS 74.78 MILLION, DEATH TOLL AT 1,674,137

    More than 74.78 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1,674,137 have died, according to a Reuters tally. 

    Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

  • Patrick Knox

    ‘ONCE UK VACCINE APPROVED CARE HOMES PRIORITY’

    The Royal College of GPs chair Professor Martin Marshall has said it will speed up the rollout of the coronavirus vaccination programme in care homes if the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is approved by regulators.

    "At the moment we are dealing with this Pfizer vaccine, which is difficult," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

    "On the assumption that we are going to get approval for the AstraZeneca vaccine which is much more familiar because it is much more like the flu vaccination, then I think we will be able to roll out at a much faster pace, but certainly over the next few weeks and next couple of months we expect all care homes to be covered."

  • Patrick Knox

    ITALY ANNOUNCES HARSH NEW CHRISTMAS RESTRICTIONS

    Many shops and all bars and restaurants will close and travel between regions will be banned.

    And only one daily outside trip per household will be permitted.

    But Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte conceded that authorities would be largely unable to monitor compliance, instead asking Italians to respect a new limit of only hosting two adult guests at home.

  • Patrick Knox

    US HOSPITAL CONVERTS NEARBY PARKING LOT INTO COVID CARE FACILITY

    To cope with an influx of coronavirus patients, a hospital in Reno in the western US state of Nevada has transformed two floors of a nearby multi-story car park into a care unit dealing with patients experiencing less severe symptoms.

    The space gives Renown Health Hospital patients and staff a secure environment that has direct access to key hospital facilities —  lab, pharmacy, food services — while freeing up intensive care unit beds in the main building for the most severe cases.

    The site was constructed in just 10 days back in April, when specialized companies were brought in to fit two stories of the indoor lot with new flooring and the necessary electrical, water and ventilation equipment.

    It was finally activated last month, with the western US region becoming the latest disease epicenter and cases soaring in Nevada — currently the sixth-worst-hit US state by cases per capita, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  • Patrick Knox

    RUSSIA'S COVID-19 DEATHS SURPASS 50,000

    Authorities said today 585 people had died from Covid 19 in the last 24 hours, taking the country's official death toll to 50,347.

    Authorities also reported 28,209 new coronavirus cases in the last day, including 6,459 in Moscow, bringing the national tally to 2,819,429.

  • Brittany Vonow

    TESTING TIMES

    Unions have warned schools and colleges have been put in an "impossible position" after the government announced mass testing of students and teachers.

    While saying they were "supportive of the concept", they warned there was a "rushed nature" of the move.

    However overnight, a Department for Education spokesperson said: "Testing on this scale means more children, teachers and staff can stay in their schools and colleges without the need to self-isolate.

    “Schools and colleges taking part in asymptomatic testing will help identify positive cases, break chains of transmission and reassure parents and teachers about returning to school and college for the spring term.

    “We do not underestimate the challenges involved and scale of delivering this, which is why a cross-government operation is being mobilised to support schools and colleges.”

  • Brittany Vonow

    ALEXA, PLAY THE QUEEN'S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

    The Queen's annual Christmas address will be available on AMazon Echo this year.

    Brits can ask "Alexa, play The Queen’s Christmas Day Message" or "Alexa, play Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas Day Message" from 3pm GMT on December 25 and they will be able to hear the monarch's words.

    A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "Our aim for the broadcast is always to share The Queen’s words with as many people as possible across the Commonwealth."

    It has been reported that Amazon approached the palace, asking to be able to make her address available on their devices.

  • Brittany Vonow

    GRIM MILESTONE

    India has recorded more than 10million coronavirus infections.

    Another 25,152 cases were recorded in the past 24 hours – meaning nearly 1 per cent of the country's 1.3billion population has been infected by the deadly bug.

    However the rate of infection has slowed in India, which at its peak was recording about 100,000 new cases each day in September.

    Another 247 deaths have been recorded in the past 24 hours, meaning the death toll now sits at 145,136.

  • Joseph Gamp

    SCIENTISTS BATTLE TO CHECK SPREAD OF THE NEW VARIANT COVID

    Millions more people in England are entering the toughest coronavirus restrictions amid fears a new variant is accelerating the spread of the disease.

    Boris Johnson was reported to have held an unscheduled meeting of ministers on Friday amid "growing concern" about the threat posed by the mutant strain – which is spreading fastest in South East England.

    Professor Sir Mark Walport – a member of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) – said there was a real possibility that it could have a "transmission advantage".

    "What happens with viruses is they do naturally mutate all the time and the ones that are likely to do well are the ones that increase transmission," he told BBC2's Newsnight. "We know that this is a new variant, it has been seen in other countries but it seems to be quite widespread which suggests that it has got a transmission advantage.

    "Scientists are working extremely hard to work out what is going on. But it does definitely seem possible that this transmits more easily. It will make the social-distancing even more critical."

  • Joseph Gamp

    JOHNSON HELD FRIDAY NIGHT MEETING WITH MINISTERS TO DISCUSS MUTATED VIRUS – REPORTS

    Boris Johnson called senior ministers to an unscheduled meeting on Friday evening to discuss how to contain a new, more virulent variant of the coronavirus, the Telegraph reports.

    An emergency toughening of COVID-19 restrictions could be announced as soon as Saturday.. The newspaper said it could possibly include restrictions on travel between the southeast of England, including London, and the rest of the country.

  • Joseph Gamp

    ITALY TO IMPOSE CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR LOCKDOWN IN BID TO PREVENT FRESH WAVE OF VIRUS

    Italy will be placed under nationwide lockdown for much of the Christmas and New Year holiday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Friday, as the government looks to prevent a fresh surge in coronavirus cases.

    The announcement ended days of indecision and wrangling within the coalition, which was split between those wanting a complete shutdown and those pressing for more limited action to help struggling businesses and to allow some family reunions.

    Under the new rules, non-essential shops will be shuttered between Dec. 24-27, Dec. 31- Jan. 3 and Jan. 5-6. On those days, Italians will only be allowed to travel for work, health or emergency reasons.

    Shops will be able to open between Dec. 28-30 and on Jan. 4 and people will be free to leave their houses at that time. However, throughout the holiday period, all bars and restaurants must remain closed.

  • Joseph Gamp

    BRAZIL: MORE THAN 52,000 NEW COVID CASES IN LAST 24 HOURS

    Brazil on Friday registered 52,544 additional cases of the new coronavirus and 823 related deaths in the prior 24 hours, according to data from the Health Ministry.

    The South American country has now registered 7,162,978 total confirmed coronavirus cases and 185,650 deaths from COVID-19.

  • Joseph Gamp

    COVID ROUND UP: WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING?

    • Boris Johnson today refused to rule out a third national lockdown after Christmas – and warned that the Covid infection rate was growing.
    • The ONS estimated around 567,300 people in England had COVID-19 last week compared to 481,500 the previous week
    • Boris Johnson warned people to isolate from today if they wanted to see family at Christmas next week
    • Despite England's four-week national lockdown ending only a fortnight ago, positive cases reached another 35,000 yesterday
    • Just North Somerset, Bristol and Herefordshire went down a Tier, despite hopes that Manchester, Leeds and parts of Birmingham might be able to be moved thanks to a crackdown on their cases
    • Matt Hancock warned everyone in Kent to act as if they had coronavirus and stay away from others

    DELIVERY FAIL

    SHOPPERS who have to self-isolate over Christmas have been left in the lurch as online supermarket delivery slots have sold out.

    Customers have been desperately searching Asda, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Tesco websites for a free slot so food will arrive before December 25.

    Supermarkets have been urging customers to book slots early this year as millions more rely on online shopping amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    But despite huge recruitment drives from the Big Four retailers to help cover the festive season, some shoppers are struggling to bag a pre-Christmas slot.

    This particularly affects those who are self-isolating due to testing positive for Covid-19 or because they have come into contact with someone who has it.

    • Joseph Gamp

      MAPPED: ENGLAND'S CURRENT LOCKDOWN TIERS

    • Joseph Gamp

      WATCH: US VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE RECEIVES PFIZER VACCINE DURING LIVE BROADCAST

      US Vice President Mike Pence receives Pfizer BioNTech covid-19 vaccine

       

    • Joseph Gamp

      TRUMP WISHES MACRON A SPEEDY RECOVERY

      President Donald Trump has spoken with French President Emmanuel Macron to wish him a quick recovery after becoming infected with the coronavirus, the White House said Friday.

      In the conversation, which the White House said took place Thursday, Trump "wished President Macron a speedy recovery and quick return to his full duties," spokesman Judd Deere said.

      "President Trump also extended his best wishes for a Merry Christmas to President Macron, his family, and the People of France," the statement said.

    • Joseph Gamp

      CARE HOME RESIDENT MEETS GREAT-GRANDCHILD FOR FIRST TIME IN COVID-SECURE REUNION

      A 97-year-old care home resident has met her great-granddaughter for the first time after reunions were allowed to take place.

      Margot Lawson met her baby great-granddaughter Cecilie behind a glass partition after her care home, CHD Living in Surbiton, London, allowed socially-distanced reunions with friends and family.

      Claire, Cecilie's mother, said: "Seeing my 97-year-old grandmother and eight-month-old daughter interacting together is something I had looked forward to for a very long time. I was so delighted to be able to properly introduce them to one another safely; the glass partition didn't take away from this moment filled with love and laughter which I will always cherish."

      Until recently, Margot had been unable to receive visits from her family due to coronavirus restrictions, however her care home is now able to welcome visitors.

      Margot said: "It was overwhelming – I was so surprised. I didn't even know Claire was visiting today, so that was a wonderful surprise in itself, and then I saw Cecilie on her arm and it was just marvellous. It's made my year."

      Margot Lawson met her baby great-granddaughter Cecilie behind a glass partition for the very first timeCredit: PA:Press Association
    • Joseph Gamp

      LONG WAY TO GO 

      FRANCE could face being under Covid restrictions for a year even with a vaccine being available.

      It may take until autumn next year before normal life returns, a senior adviser to the French government said on Friday.

      Read more on the story here.

    • Joseph Gamp

      TURKEY: COVID DEATHS REACH NEW DAILY HIGH

      Turkey's daily coronavirus death toll hit a record high of 246 in the last 24 hours, Health Ministry data showed on Friday, bringing the total number of deaths to 17,610.

      Turkey also recorded 26,410 new coronavirus cases, including asymptomatic ones, in the last 24 hours.

      For four months, Ankara only reported daily symptomatic cases, but it has reported all since Nov. 25.

      The country has registered 1,982,090 COVID-19 infections since the beginning of the pandemic in March, the data showed.

      The government has imposed weekday curfews and full weekend lockdowns to curb the surge in infections

    • Joseph Gamp

      FURTHER SIX COVID DEATHS CONFIRMED IN IRELAND

      Six more people have died of Covid-19 in Ireland, the National Public Health Emergency Team said. A further 582 cases of the virus were confirmed.

      Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: "Over the past week, we have expressed significant concern that the level of infection was deteriorating day on day. The data today adds further evidence that the situation is getting worse more rapidly than we expected.

      "The country simply cannot cope with this level of infection as we head into Christmas week. With vaccines offering hope in the coming months for our most vulnerable groups, we want to keep them alive and well so that they can receive it.

      "Each one of us must do all we can to protect public health – cut your contacts, see only those you need to see. Choose to socialise safely, outdoors if possible. If you see a crowd, avoid it.

      "By choosing to act safely right now, together we can limit the impact this disease will have in the weeks and months to come – and in doing so, we can protect the vulnerable and prevent unnecessary deaths."

    • Joseph Gamp

      PLANE WRONG

      Holidaymakers flocked to Heathrow for Christmas getaways this week- sparking further coronavirus fears.

      Photos obtained by The Sun show huge queues of passengers snaking around the airport terminals.

      Read more on the story here.

    • Joseph Gamp

      TRANSPORT SECRETARY WAIVES ADMIN FEES FOR PEOPLE FORCED TO CHANGE XMAS TRAVEL PLANS

      Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he would waive admin fees for those having to alter their travel plans over the Christmas period because of the changing Government guidance.

      Mr Shapps acted on Friday after facing calls "to do the right thing" by ensuring people do not lose out financially on non-refundable tickets if they follow new guidance for the festive period.

      People across the UK were last month told coronavirus laws would be relaxed to allow the mixing of up to three households between December 23 and 27, and encouraged to book advance train tickets.

      But after rising concerns the move will lead to a surge of new infections and deaths, Boris Johnson urged people to scale down their plans to have "short" and "small" Christmases.

      He warned Britons against travelling between areas of high and low prevalence of the virus, while Wales is going as far as changing the law to limit mixing to two households.

    • Joseph Gamp

      CHART: UK COVID CASES AND DEATHS PER DAY

    Source: Read Full Article